UN ‘ready to work with ASEAN’ on crisis

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters on September 19. Photo – AP
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the world body welcomes constructive approaches by ASEAN as well as the provision of humanitarian assistance and is ready to cooperate with ASEAN on the Rakhine crisis.

“I hope that ASEAN can intensify its actions, as the time to act is now,” he said.

The UN chief said that the UN stands ready to work with ASEAN to help resolve the causes of the crisis, including through supporting Myanmar in the implementation of the final report by the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State helmed by Kofi Annan.

In the meeting over the weekend with ASEAN foreign ministers on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Guterres expressed deep concern about the crisis in Rakhine State in Myanmar and its serious implications for stability in ASEAN and the region.

In this connection, he strongly condemned the August 25 attack on Myanmar security forces in northern Rakhine State.

He called for three immediate actions – suspension of military and security operations, unfettered access for humanitarian agencies to affected communities, and allowing the safe return of those who fled the country in the wake of the attacks.

Last week, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi affirmed that clearance operations had ended as early as September 5 and that humanitarian aid has been delivered to the affected areas in Rakhine without discrimination.

The State Counsellor has already pledged to implement the commission’s recommendations, giving priority to those that promise immediate results in improving the lives of affected villagers.

The UN secretary general praised ASEAN’s progress on peaceful co-existence and regional integration over the past half century. Multilateralism and regional integration are absolutely vital in our world today, representing an opportunity to promote prosperity as well as advance human rights and the rule of law,” he said.

Under the ASEAN-UN Comprehensive Partnership, both sides can intensify and integrate efforts on peace and security, sustainable development, human rights and humanitarian action with close attention to prevention.

With respect to prevention, Guterres called on all parties to resolve their disputes, including maritime disputes, in a peaceful manner, in conformity with international law, and to avoid unnecessary escalation or provocation.

He added that the recent adoption of a framework for a code of conduct (COC) in the South China Sea is a positive step toward early conclusion of the code.

He welcomed the efforts by ASEAN foreign ministers to de-escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula through dialogue within the ASEAN Regional Forum. He said the UN was grateful to the growing contribution of ASEAN members to United Nations peacekeeping operations, which now exceeds 4000 personnel.

Given the threat of terrorism and violent extremism, including in ASEAN, he pointed that the new UN Office of Counter-Terrorism and the UN as a whole stand ready to support ASEAN in addressing these complex threats through regional cooperation.

“ASEAN’s leadership is also needed to confront transnational organised crime, including piracy and human trafficking, which is expanding everywhere in the world as well as the ASEAN region,” he said.

Finally, he expressed appreciation of ASEAN’s strong leadership on sustainable development in close partnership with the UN. “The 2030 Agenda and the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 are complementary and mutually reinforcing,” he said.

The secretariats of ASEAN and the UN also worked together to strengthen the ASEAN-UN relations, including reviewing projects and activities and deciding on new areas of cooperation and collaboration.

Last September, the first ASEAN-UN Plan of Action (2016-2020) was adopted to promote cooperation on peace and security, economic integration, disaster response and sustainable development.

Guterres will attend the 7th ASEAN-UN Summit in November at Clark airbase in the Philippines.




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